Can “Fight or Flight” Make You Chronically Stressed and Exhausted?
Adrenal fatigue is a term used in alternative and holistic medicine to describe the affect of chronic stress on the adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands are part of your endocrine system and are located on top of your kidneys. The endocrine system affects every cell in your body. Approximately the size of walnuts, these glands are small but powerful.
Hydrocortisone (cortisol), corticosterone, aldosterone and epinephrine (adrenaline) are produced and secreted by your adrenal glands and crucial to your total body health. They affect far more than the “fight or flight” response.
Functions Regulated by Adrenal Glands
- Cardiovascular system
- Immune system
- Physical and mental responses to stress
When we deal with an isolated stressful event – such as a car accident, final exam or job interview – our body reacts with a combination of hormone secretions and physiological markers such as increased heart rate. In the short term, the hormone levels rise to handle the event then gradually return to normal.
How Adrenal Fatigue Wreaks Havoc On Your Immune System
Chronic stress indicates that cortisol levels do not return to normal. They remain elevated – an unnatural state for your body – and eventually your body is unable to regulate them at all.
This compromises your immune system and triggers chronic inflammation, which leads to disease and the gradual inability to produce these essential hormones at all. When your stress hormones remain elevated for too long, your entire body is adversely affected.
5 Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
- Immune system – habitual illness such as bronchitis or chronic cough, inability to “bounce back” after being sick, acne, worsening allergies or asthma symptoms, muscle weakness, unexplained muscle aches and headaches
- Mood – short temper, anxiety, feelings of sadness, overwhelmed or panic
- Brain function – inability to concentrate and poor memory
- Energy and sleep – poor sleep patterns, lack of energy, tiredness no matter how many hours of sleep you get
- Weight and nutrition – abdominal weight gain, increased caloric intake at night, craving for carbohydrates, high-sugar or high-salt foods, caffeine dependence, excessive thirst, indigestion and hypoglycemia
Fortunately, adrenal fatigue is reversible with diet, exercise and mind-body therapy such as yoga, tai chi and focused meditation. People with adrenal fatigue tend to be vitamin deficient. By controlling your diet, you can improve your vitamin levels quickly and safely.
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies Common with Adrenal Fatigue
- Vitamin E – seeds and nuts (especially California almonds), spinach, green olives, dried apricots and dried herbs such as basil and oregano.
- Vitamin C – camu camu, berries, guava, leafy greens, oranges, kiwi and peppers
- Calcium – dairy products, dried herbs, seeds and nuts, leafy greens and herring
- Magnesium – bran (wheat, rice, oat), seeds and nuts, dried herbs and dark chocolate
- B-Complex – there are eight vitamins that compose B-complex so eating a wide variety of foods will ensure you get what your body needs. Some examples are watermelon, beans, dairy products, leafy greens, fatty fish, eggs, seeds and nuts, avocados, bananas and tomatoes
Avoiding junk food high in fat and sugar, adding more fruits and vegetables every day and getting true rest is crucial to total body health, but is especially important for stress management.
Remove negativity in as many ways as possible and remember to give yourself personal time to cope with the demands placed on you every day.
With daily changes, you can reverse adrenal fatigue and take back your life.